The 14th Healthcare and Interdisciplinary Research Conference, which took place on 6–7 November 2013, was opened with a keynote address by Jonathan Irwin (founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation).
Jonathan spoke eloquently of his personal journey and experience following the birth of his son Jack in 1997. Jack had severe medical problems which required multiple supports after he was born. Such supports did not exist at the time and Jonathan and his wife MaryAnn, through a combination of determination and circumstance, set up supports for their son. Jonathan and MaryAnn were determined that nobody should have to care for their newborn child without support, and from this, the Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation was established. It provides an exemplary service which includes the financing of practical home nursing care, home visits by liaison nurses, and an invaluable network of support for individual families. The Jack and Jill Children’s Foundation has helped over 1600 families since its establishment 15 years ago.
The presentations for the intellectual disability strand of the conference were many and varied. Lynne Marsh, from University College Cork, presented a view of how fathers feel when they learn that their child has a diagnosis of intellectual disability; this moving presentation offered a cogent insight into a previously neglected area of research. Bernadette Flood, a pharmacist in the Daughters of Charity Services, spoke with passion on the experiences of people with an intellectual disability as ‘experts’ in the medication use process. Several presentations were derived from the Intellectual Disability Supplement to The Irish Longitudinal Ageing Study [TILDA]. Professor Mary McCarron gave an overview of the study; this was followed by Eilish Burke who spoke of how she was developing a picture of the bone health of adults with an ID in Ireland. Eimer McGlinchey then looked at issues around employment for adults with an intellectual disability.
The theme of men’s health and men’s issues relating to intellectual disability was reported on by Michael McKeon. He described a very interesting study in which he examined activity levels of men with an intellectual disability, both by interviewing them and by measuring their activity levels. On a similar topic, Kathleen Fisher presented an interesting piece on the use of health records as a source of data for characterising unhealthy weight in community-dwelling adults with intellectual disability in the US. Finally, Darren McCausland looked at how an action research approach was used to implement person-centred planning in a large service in Leinster. He described how inquiry groups were set up in five different residential units in the service and the positive impact that the meetings of service users, staff and family members had on the lives of service users, and on the way that the staff worked. Over 100 meetings were held over a ten-month period and Darren concluded that the person-centred planning process enabled the participants to consider attaining hitherto unachievable possibilities in their lives. He proposed that PCP can be seen as potentially opening up new options for people with intellectual disability.
With a variety of presenters, both national and international, the wealth of research knowledge being developed in the field of intellectual disabilities was evident.